Health and FFitness Column

5-Hour Energy linked to 13 deaths

By John Taylor | Nov 20, 2012
John Taylor

The Food and Drug Administration has recently received complaints that the popular energy drink 5-Hour Energy has led to 13 deaths and 33 hospitalizations in the United States in the last four years. As a result, federal investigators are now looking into the validity of these claims.
5-Hour Energy is sold two-ounce packages, and its caffeine levels are equal to two cups of coffee. But after receiving reports that the product may have caused fatalities, government officials are investigating whether Living Essentials, 5-Hour Energy’s manufacturer, adequately warned consumers of all potential side effects.
In an interview with ABC News, Patrick Nord, the Director of Section Toxicology at the University of Southern California, said that individuals who drink multiple bottles of 5-Hour Energy may be consuming the equivalent of 40 cups of coffee without realizing it. Nord also stated that the FDA confirmed it is currently investigating claims that the energy drink Monster has been linked to another five deaths.
Living Essentials made a statement that these reports are based on claims, and there is no proven link between the drinks and the aforementioned deaths.
“Our product intended for busy adults,” an unnamed Living Essentials representative stated in a press release. The representative also refuted the FDA report about 5-Hour Energy’s caffeine content by arguing their product has “about as much caffeine as a cup of the leading premium coffee.”
In a previous interview on ABC’s “Nightline,” Manoj Bhargava, founder of 5-Hour Energy, argued that if the product was used as directed, the caffeine in his product won’t cause negative side effects.
“It’s overblown. It’s like this — water is good, but if you have too much you drown,” Bhargava said.
Though the FDA report did not release the ages of those who died, many experts say a fatal dose of caffeine for an adult would be almost impossible to drink, and would have to be 50 to 60 times of what is contained in an energy drink.
However, there are those who are concerned about children with underlying heart problems consuming these energy drinks, and are warning that they may be more dangerous than coffee. Currently, there are no governmental regulations in place that outlaw minors from buying these products.
While I use energy drinks to stay alert during the day and to get through my workouts, I also take precautions regarding the level of caffeine I ingest in a 24-hour period. I am also aware of the signs of a caffeine overdose which can include breathing difficulties, confusion, convulsions, hallucinations, irregular heartbeat and vomiting.
Whether the benefits of using an energy drink are physical or psychological, I know that I perform my workouts more effectively after consuming a can of Monster. But until the FDA says that the products are outlawed, both exercise goers and full-time workers will continue to buy energy drinks. If you or your children are going to drink them, please familiarize yourself with consumption recommendations and signs of overdose. Remember, education and responsible use can help save lives.